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120+ French Pronominal Verbs to Start Using Now (With Grammar Guide)

Pronominal verbs are a very useful and completely necessary sector of French grammar!

It can be tempting to compare French with English. But it doesn’t work with French grammar, it has limited use when learning to pronounce French vowels and it’s definitely not going to fly here.

In this guide, I’ll walk you through how pronominal verbs work, when to use them and even hand over to you the pronominal verbs the French like best.


What are Pronominal Verbs? 

Pronominal verbs are verbs that need a reflexive pronoun before the verb. Reflexive pronouns are those little pronouns you’ve likely seen placed before French verbs: me, te, se, nous, vous. In a nutshell, they express what the verb is happening to. You can use them with verbs that aren’t pronominal, but the main thing you need to know is…

These little pronouns are attached to the pronominal verbs.

They stay right there, sometimes changing position around the verb depending on if you’re giving a command, asking a question or using a compound tense (more on these special conditions later). And more importantly, they agree with the subject. 

For example, the verb se moquer (to make fun of) is a pronominal verb that always has a reflexive pronoun. Here’s how you would conjugate it:

Je Je me moque I make fun of
Tu Tu te moques You make fun of
Il Il se moque He makes fun of
Elle Elle se moque She makes fun of
Nous Nous nous moquons We make fun of
Vous Vous vous moquez You make fun of
Ils Ils se moquent They make fun of
Elles Elles se moquent They make fun of

Notice that all the reflexive pronouns match up to their subject!

What can get some people bug-eyed is that not all pronominal verbs mean that the subject is doing something to themselves. With se moquer, these people aren’t making fun of themselves. Instead, they’re making fun of someone else who we haven’t specified.

The end message here is: Know your word definitions, know which verbs are pronominal and don’t worry too much about the translation.

To tell when the subject actually is “verbing” themselves or not, we go on to our next topic…

Three Types of Pronominal Verbs 

A lot of pronominal verbs are reflexive verbs, but not all of them are. Pronominal verbs fall into three types:

1. Reflexive

Reflexive verbs are used when the subject is doing the verb to themselves. This ties back into that little caveat I mentioned a minute ago. These verbs include those such as se doucher (to shower oneself) and se laver (to wash oneself).

When you conjugate these verbs, the reflexive pronoun has to agree with the subject:

Reflexive VerbMeaningExample Sentence
S'asseoir To sit down Il préfère s'asseoir près de la fenêtre.
(He prefers to sit down near the window.)
Se baigner To bathe, to swim Ils ont décidé de se baigner malgré les vagues fortes.
(They decided to swim despite the strong waves.)
Se brosser To brush oneself Elle doit se brosser les dents après chaque repas.
(She needs to brush her teeth after every meal.)
Se cacher To hide oneself Le chat aime se cacher sous le lit.
(The cat likes to hide under the bed.)
Se calmer To calm down Respire profondément pour te calmer. (Breathe deeply to calm yourself down.)
Se casser To break Fais attention, tu pourrais te casser la jambe.
(Be careful, you could break your leg.)
Se changer To change clothes Nous devons nous changer avant le dîner.
(We need to change clothes before dinner.)
Se chausser To put on shoes Il faut se chausser avant de sortir.
(You need to put on your shoes before going out.)
Se coiffer To style one's hair Elle aime se coiffer différemment tous les jours.
(She likes to style her hair differently every day.)
Se concentrer To concentrate Il est difficile de se concentrer dans un environnement bruyant.
(It's hard to concentrate in a noisy environment.)
Se coucher To go to bed, to lie down Je suis fatigué, je vais me coucher tôt ce soir.
(I'm tired, I'm going to bed early tonight.)
Se déplacer To move oneself, to travel Il faut se déplacer en voiture pour aller à la réunion.
(You need to travel by car to go to the meeting.)
Se déshabiller To undress oneself Il faut se déshabiller avant de prendre une douche.
(You need to undress before taking a shower.)
Se détourner To turn away, to avert oneself Elle a préféré se détourner de la scène désagréable.
(She preferred to turn away from the unpleasant scene.)
Se dépêcher To hurry oneself Nous devons nous dépêcher pour ne pas être en retard.
(We need to hurry so we won't be late.)
Se détendre To relax, to unwind Après une longue journée, il est important de se détendre.
(After a long day, it's important to relax.)
Se doucher To shower oneself Je vais me doucher avant de partir au travail.
(I am going to shower before going to work.)
Se fâcher To get angry Il est facile de se fâcher lorsque les choses ne vont pas comme prévu.
(It's easy to get angry when things don't go as planned.)
Se habiller To dress oneself Il faut se habiller chaudement en hiver.
(You need to dress warmly in winter.)
Se laver To wash oneself Il est important de se laver les mains régulièrement.
(It is important to wash your hands regularly.)
Se lever To lift oneself up, to stand up Je vais me lever tôt demain matin.
(I am going to wake up early tomorrow morning.)
Se maquiller To put on makeup Elle aime se maquiller avant de sortir.
(She likes to put on makeup before going out.)
Se moucher To blow one's nose Il a attrapé un rhume et doit se moucher souvent.
(He caught a cold and has to blow his nose frequently.)
Se parfumer To perfume oneself Elle aime se parfumer avec son parfum préféré.
(She likes to perfume herself with her favorite fragrance.)
Se peigner To comb one's hair Elle aime se peigner les cheveux avant de sortir.
(She likes to comb her hair before going out.)
Se perdre To get lost Il est facile de se perdre dans cette grande ville.
(It's easy to get lost in this big city.)
Se pencher To lean oneself Elle se penche par la fenêtre pour regarder ce qui se passe dans la rue.

(She leans out of the window to see what's happening in the street.)
Se préoccuper To worry about oneself Il ne faut pas se préoccuper de l'opinion des autres.
(You shouldn't worry about what others think.)
Se préparer To prepare oneself Je me prépare pour mon examen de français..
(I am preparing for my French exam.)
Se promener To take a walk, to stroll Je vais me promener dans le parc cet après-midi.
(I'm going to take a walk in the park this afternoon.)
Se rappeler To remember N'oublie pas de te rappeler de lui souhaiter un joyeux anniversaire.
(Don't forget to remember to wish him a happy birthday.)
Se raser To shave oneself Il se rase tous les matins avant d'aller travailler.
(He shaves himself every morning before going to work.)
Se réjouir To rejoice, to be glad Nous devrions nous réjouir de cette bonne nouvelle.
(We should rejoice at this good news.)
Se relaxer To relax Après une longue journée, elle aime se relaxer dans son fauteuil préféré.
(After a long day, she likes to relax on her favorite armchair.)
Se reposer To rest, to relax Il a besoin de se reposer après une semaine chargée.
(He needs to rest after a busy week.)
Se réveiller To wake oneself up Je dois me réveiller tôt demain matin pour prendre mon vol.
(I have to wake up early tomorrow morning to catch my flight.)
Se sécher To dry oneself Après la douche, elle se sèche avec une serviette.
(After the shower, she dries herself with a towel.)
Se sentir To feel Je me sens fatigué aujourd'hui.
(I feel tired today.)
Se souvenir de To remember Je vais me souvenir de ce moment toute ma vie.
(I will remember this moment for the rest of my life.)
Se vêtir To dress oneself Elle aime se vêtir de manière élégante pour les occasions spéciales.
(She likes to dress elegantly for special occasions.)

2. Reciprocal

With reciprocal verbs, you’ll find two or more people “verbing” on each other. Here’s an example with se voir (to see one another):

Nous nous voyons le lundi. (We see each other on Mondays.)

Think of reflexive as “myself, yourself, himself, herself, themselves, ourselves,” and reciprocal as “to each other, to one another.”

Reciprocal Verb MeaningExample Sentence
S'aimer To love oneself, to love each other Ils ont appris à s'aimer et à se soutenir mutuellement.
(They have learned to love each other and support each other.)
S'apprécier To appreciate each other Dans une équipe, il est important de s'apprécier mutuellement.
(In a team, it is important to appreciate each other.)
Se battre To fight Les deux boxeurs se battent pour le titre mondial.
(The two boxers are fighting for the world title.)
Se câliner To cuddle Le couple aime se câliner sur le canapé.
(The couple likes to cuddle on the couch.)
Se compléter To complement Leurs compétences se complètent parfaitement.
(Their skills complement each other perfectly.)
Se comprendre To understand Nous devons apprendre à nous comprendre les uns les autres.
(We need to learn to understand each other.)
Se confier To confide Ils se sont confié leurs rêves les plus profonds.
(They confided their deepest dreams to each other.)
Se confondre To blend Les couleurs se confondent et créent une belle harmonie.
(The colors blend and create a beautiful harmony.)
Se congratuler To congratulate Nous devons se congratuler pour notre réussite.
(We should congratulate each other on our success.)
Se connaître To know each otherIls se connaissent depuis l'enfance.
(They have known each other since childhood.)
Se contacter To contact Ils ont l'habitude de se contacter par téléphone.
(They are used to contacting each other by phone.)
Se croiser To cross pathsNous nous sommes croisés dans la rue.
(We crossed paths in the street.)
Se détester To hate each other Ils se sont rencontrés à l'école et se détestent depuis.
(They met in school and have hated each other since.)
Se dire To tell Nous devons nous dire la vérité.
(We need to tell each other the truth.)
Se disputer To argue Ils se disputent souvent à cause de leurs différences.
(They often argue because of their differences.)
S'embrasser To kiss each other Ils se sont embrassés passionnément à l'aéroport.
(They kissed each other passionately at the airport.)
S'entendre To get along, to understand each other Ils ont toujours réussi à s'entendre même dans les moments difficiles.
(They have always managed to get along, even in difficult times.)
S'entraider To help each other En tant qu'amis, on doit s'entraider dans les bons et les mauvais moments.
(As friends, we should help each other in good times and bad times.)
Se fréquenter To see each other regularly, to date or hang out Sophie et Pierre se fréquentent depuis l'université.

(Sophie and Pierre have been dating since college.)
Se haïr To hate each other Les ennemis jurés se haïssent depuis des années.
(The sworn enemies have hated each other for years.)
Se manquer To miss each other Les deux amis se sont manqués de peu dans la foule.

(The two friends narrowly missed each other in the crowd.)
Se marier To get married Ils vont se marier l'été prochain.
(They are getting married next summer.)
Se parler To talk to each other Ils aiment se parler pendant des heures.
(They enjoy talking to each other for hours.)
Se partager To share with each other Nous devons apprendre à se partager nos ressources.
(We need to learn to share our resources with each other.)
Se promettre To promise each other Ils se sont promis d'être amis pour toujours.
(They promised each other they will be friends forever.)
Se rassembler To gather, to assemble Les manifestants vont se rassembler sur la place principale.
(The protesters will gather in the main square.)
Se rencontrer To meet each other Nous devons nous rencontrer pour discuter de nos projets.
(We need to meet up to discuss our plans.)
Se rendre visite To visit each other Ils aiment se rendre visite le weekend.
(They enjoy visiting each other on the weekends.)
Se respecter To respect each other Dans une relation, il est important de se respecter mutuellement.
(In a relationship, it is important to respect each other.)
Se ressembler To resemble each other Les deux sœurs se ressemblent énormément.
(The two sisters resemble each other a lot.)
Se retrouver To meet again, to reunite Nous allons se retrouver au café demain matin.
(We are going to meet again at the cafe tomorrow morning.)
Se saluer To greet each other Quand ils se croisent, Ils se saluent chaque matin au travail.
(They greet each other every morning at work.)
Se séparer To separate, to part Après des années de mariage, ils ont décidé de se séparer.
(After years of marriage, they decided to separate.)
Se soutenir To support each other Nous devons se soutenir dans les moments difficiles.
(We need to support each other in difficult times.)
Se sourire To smile at each other Quand ils se voient, ils se sourient chaleureusement.
(When they see each other, they smile warmly.)
Se taquiner To tease each other Entre frères et sœurs, il est courant de se taquiner.
(Among siblings, it is common to tease each other.)
Se téléphoner To call each other On devrait se téléphoner ce soir pour discuter.
(We should call each other tonight to discuss.)
Se tenir la main To hold hands Les jeunes mariés se tiennent la main lors de leur premier danse.

(The newlyweds hold hands during their first dance.)
Se toucher To touch each other Pendant le jeu, les adversaires se touchent parfois accidentellement.
(During the game, opponents sometimes accidentally touch each other.)
Se voir To see each other Nous nous voyons tous les jours à l'école.
(We see each other every day at school.)

3. Idiomatic

These don’t express anyone doing anything to one another or themselves, but are rather “idiomatic.” They seem kind of wonky to French learners, but they seem totally normal to native French speakers.

Say we’ve got our friend douter (to doubt). When we add sethe meaning changes to “to suspect.”

Je me doute. (I suspect.)

Caution: This does not mean “I suspect myself.” The reflexive pronoun is just a part of the verb, and serves no function other than changing the meaning from “to doubt” to “to suspect.”

Idiomatic Verb MeaningExample Sentence
S'agir de To be about, to concern Cette décision importante s'agit de l'avenir de l'entreprise.
(This important decision concerns the future of the company.)
S'attendre à To expect, to anticipate Elle s'attend à recevoir une promotion après tous ses efforts.
(She expects to receive a promotion after all her efforts.)
Se creuser la tête To rack one's brain Je dois me creuser la tête pour trouver une solution.
(I have to rack my brain to find a solution.)
Se demander To wonder, to ask oneself Je me demande où il est passé.
(I wonder where he went.)
Se débarrasser de To get rid of, to dispose of Il faut se débarrasser de ces vieux vêtements.
(We need to get rid of these old clothes.)
Se débrouiller To manage oneself, to get by Je dois me débrouiller seul.
(I have to manage on my own.)
Se dérouler To take place, to unfold La réunion va se dérouler dans la salle de conférence.
(The meeting is going to take place in the conference room.)
Se donner To give oneself Elle se donne à fond dans son travail.
(She gives herself fully to her work.)
Se douter To suspect, to have a hunch Je me doute qu'il cache quelque chose.
(I suspect he's hiding something.)
Se faire la malle To make a getaway, to take off Les voleurs ont réussi à se faire la malle avant l'arrivée de la police.
(The thieves managed to make a getaway before the police arrived.)
Se faire la belle To make a run for it, to escape Le prisonnier s'est échappé en se faisant la belle pendant la confusion.
(The prisoner escaped by making a run for it during the confusion.)
Se fendre la poire To split one's sides laughing, to crack up On s'est fendu la poire en regardant cette comédie hilarante.

(We split our sides laughing while watching that hilarious comedy.)
Se fier à To trust, to rely on Je peux me fier à lui, il ne me décevra pas.
(I can rely on him, he won't let me down.)
Se laisser aller To let oneself go Elle se laisse aller à pleurer quand elle regarde des films émouvants.
(She lets herself go and cries when she watches emotional movies.)
Se méfier To be wary, to distrust Il vaut mieux se méfier des apparences.
(It's better to be wary of appearances.)
Se mettre à To start, to begin Il a décidé de se mettre au sport.
(He decided to start doing sports.)
Se mettre d'accord To agree, to come to an agreement Nous devons nous mettre d'accord sur les termes du contrat.
(We need to agree on the terms of the contract.)
Se mettre en quatre To go to great lengths, to bend over backward Ils se mettent en quatre pour satisfaire leurs clients.
(They go to great lengths to satisfy their clients.)
Se mettre en tête To put in one's head, to convince oneself Il s'est mis en tête de gravir le plus haut sommet de la chaîne de montagnes.
(He got it into his head to climb the highest peak in the mountain range.)
Se mettre en valeur To highlight oneself, to show off Elle sait se mettre en valeur lors des soirées mondaines.
(She knows how to highlight herself at social events.)
Se mettre à table To sit down at the table, to start eating Nous allons se mettre à table pour le dîner.
(We are going to sit down at the table for dinner.)
Se montrer à la hauteur To measure up, to rise to the occasion Il doit se montrer à la hauteur des attentes de son équipe.
(He needs to measure up to his team's expectations.)
Se moquer To make fun of oneself/others Les critiques se moquent souvent des célébrités dans les journaux à scandale.
(Critics often mock celebrities in tabloid newspapers.)
Se passer de To do without, to manage without Je peux me passer de café, je n'en ai pas besoin.
(I can do without coffee, I don't need it.)
Se prendre au jeu To get carried away, to get caught up in the game Il s'est pris au jeu et a passé toute la nuit à jouer.
(He got carried away and spent the whole night playing.)
Se prendre la tête To overthink, to complicate things Arrête de te prendre la tête pour rien.
(Stop overthinking things for no reason.)
Se prendre pour quelqu'un To think highly of oneself, to consider oneself as someone Il se prend pour quelqu'un d'important, mais il ne l'est pas.
(He thinks highly of himself, but he's not important.)
Se prêter main-forte To lend a hand, to help out Elle est toujours prête à se prêter main-forte en cas de besoin.
(She is always ready to lend a hand when needed.)
Se produire To occur, to happen L'incident a se produit hier soir pendant la réunion.
(The incident happened last night during the meeting.)
Se remettre de To recover from, to get over Elle aura besoin de temps pour se remettre de cette blessure grave.
(It will take time for her to recover from this serious injury.)
Se rendre To surrender, to give oneself up Il a décidé de se rendre à la police après avoir commis le crime.
(He decided to surrender to the police after committing the crime.)
Se rendre compte To realize, to become aware Il faut se rendre compte de l'importance de cette décision.
(You need to realize the importance of this decision.)
Se surpasser To surpass oneself, to excel Il s'est surpassé lors du marathon et a battu son record personnel.
(He surpassed himself during the marathon and beat his personal record.)
S'excuser To apologize Je vais m'excuser auprès d'elle pour mon comportement.
(I'm going to apologize to her for my behavior.)
S'en aller To go away, to leave Il a décidé de s'en aller sans dire au revoir.
(He decided to go away without saying goodbye.)
S'en sortir To get by, to manage Je suis sûr qu'il va s'en sortir dans cette situation difficile.
(I'm confident he will get by in this difficult situation.)
S'en tirer To get away with, to manage Elle a fait une erreur, mais elle a réussi à s'en tirer sans conséquences graves.
(She made a mistake, but she managed to get away with it without serious consequences.)
S'occuper de To take care of, to deal with Je vais m'occuper de cette tâche, ne t'en fais pas.
(I'll take care of this task, don't worry.)

To recap, pronominal verbs come in a few different varieties:

  • Reflexive refers back to the subject.
  • Reciprocal is all about third-person singulars or plurals doing something to each other (hopefully something nice).
  • Idiomatic pronominal is just a verb that happens to have a reflexive pronoun attached.

These are all important to know, and while you certainly won’t spend your entire French-speaking adventure referring back to these definitions, they’re so useful in the beginning to understanding that pronominal verbs can easily be conquered. They’re just misunderstood because they take on different functions and meanings. But boy, are they useful.

Common Pronominal Verbs to Use Right Away

Out of the 120+ verbs above, here are some of the most common pronominal verbs:

1. Se lever / Se doucher (and other “getting ready” verbs)

Definitions: To get up / to take a shower

Type of verb: Reflexive

First thing in the morning, there they are. Nothing like a cup of coffee and a slew of pronominal verbs to get things going. These verbs include:

What these all have in common is that you’re doing them to yourself. That makes all of them reflexive verbs. 

Chaque matin, je me lève à six heures du matin. Après mon café, je me douche. Puis, je me coiffe et me maquille, et je me brosse les dents.

(Each morning, I get up at six in the morning. After my coffee, I take a shower. Then, I brush my hair, put on my makeup and brush my teeth.)

Notice how the English translation of that sentence didn’t match up to the French grammar. That’s because in English we don’t usually say “I makeup myself.” 

2. Se casser ( la jambe , le bras , etc.)

Definition: To break (a leg, arm or other body part)

Type of verb: Reflexive

Elle s’est cassé la jambe pendant un match au ping-pong. (She broke her leg during a ping-pong match.)

If you want to talk about someone (hopefully not yourself) breaking a body part, then this reflexive verb is the way to go. It also has an idiomatic meaning. Je me casse  is a familiar way to say “I’m leaving.”

Caution: When you’re using the passé composé with a body part (or any other direct object), don’t agree the past participle!

3. S’asseoir

Definition: To sit down

Type of verb: Reflexive

Pourquoi est-ce que tu t’assieds à l’envers dans la chaise ? (Why are you sitting backwards in the chair?)

If you’ve ever taken a high school French class, then this was in your “classroom commands” vocabulary list in the form of “Assieds-toi !” (Sit down!). The conjugation is a little crazy, so here’s a cheat sheet for that.

4. Se fâcher

Definition: To get angry

Type of verb: Reflexive

Ils se fâchent encore. (They are fighting again.)

There are a few ways you can use this one. Like in the example, you can use the third person plural (ils, elles) to describe two people who are mad at one another. In addition, you could use se fâcher contre  to say that you’re getting angry with someone:

Je me fâche contre Phillipe ! (I’m angry with Phillipe!)

5. Se reposer

Definition: To rest

Type of verb: Reflexive

Il va se reposer avant de faire ses devoirs. (He is going to relax before doing his homework.)

This one is easy to remember—just think about being “in repose.”

6. Se souvenir de

Definition: To remember

Type of verb: Reflexive

Je me souviens de tous les verbs pronominaux. (I remember all the pronominal verbs.)

This isn’t one of those idiomatic verbs. French just doesn’t always translate smoothly to English–just think of this verb as being more grammatically akin to “I remind myself.”

7. Se parler

Definition: To talk to

Type of verb: Reciprocal

Elles se parlent en classe. (They talk to each other in class.)

In contrast to its non-pronominal brother, parler (to speak), this verb will use its reciprocal powers for good to help people talk to one another!

8. Se dire

Definition: To tell (or say to) one another

Type of verb: Reciprocal

Ils se sont dit adieu. (They said goodbye to each other.)

Similar to se parler vs. parler, dire means “to say,” and se dire is to “tell one another.” 

9. S’aimer

Definition: To love oneself/to love each other

Type of verb: Reciprocal

Après cinquante ans de mariage, ils s’aiment encore. (After fifty years of marriage, they still love each other.)

In addition, you could say “Je m’aime,”  (I love myself) to show yourself some warm feelings.

10. S’en aller

Definition: To go away

Type of verb: Idiomatic

À demain, je m’en vais ! (See you tomorrow, I’m going away!)

Don’t run away! That’s just our good friend en over there. You can review your pronouns if you feel the need, or just remember that en is basically referring to “away” in this verb construction. “Je m’en vais,”  like in the example, is a very common phrase in French. It can even be used to signify that you’re just leaving the house for a bit.

11. Se trouver

Definition: To be located

Type of verb: Idiomatic

Nous nous trouvons au bar. (We’re at the bar.)

Trouver (to find) was likely one of your staple -er verbs in your beginner days, so the conjugation here is a cinch. This idiomatic pronominal can actually be somewhat translated to “We find ourselves at the bar.” 

12. Se demander

Definition: To wonder

Type of verb: Idiomatic

Je me demande si la vie française est tellement meilleure. (I wonder if the French lifestyle is really better.)

To remember this one, ask yourself (or wonder) if wondering about something is that different from asking yourself about something. 

13. Se mettre à

Definition: To begin to

Type of verb: Idiomatic

Je me suis mise à ranger ma chambre, mais… (I began to clean up my room, but…)

“Begin” is usually associated with commencernot the verb mettre (to put). But here we are, with yet another example of how transformative that reflexive pronoun can be. In English, we use the phrase “I started to” or “I began to” pretty often. And you can do the same in French with se mettre à

14. Se tromper  

Definition: To be mistaken

Type of verb: Idiomatic

Vous vous trompez, je ne suis pas Julia Roberts. (You are mistaken, I’m not Julia Roberts.)

Tromper on its own means “to cheat,” “to deceive” or “to mislead.” Making it pronominal makes it more innocent, turning it into “being mistaken” or “making a mistake.”

15. S’arrêter  

Definition: To stop oneself

Type of verb: Idiomatic

Il faut s’arrêter si on voit une belle fleur. (You must stop yourself if you see a beautiful flower.)

Often, this is one of the first pronominal verbs you will encounter out there in the real French world!

How to Practice French Pronominal Verbs

  •  Write. Find a short newspaper article or blog post, and identify reflexive pronouns and verbs. Next, transform their tense or mood. For example, if the sentence is in the present tense, change it to the passé composé. Next, if you’re feeling feisty, negate your new sentences in the new tense.
  • Listen. Pick a short radio broadcast or podcast. Jot down the pronominal verbs you hear. Next, identify their types: reciprocal, reflexive, idiomatic. Can you hear the difference between servir (to serve) and se servir (to use)?
  • Talk yourself through it. A great way to sharpen your speaking chops is to record yourself. A great exercise is to talk about your morning routine: “I wake up, I get dressed and I make myself something to eat…” and then talk about someone else’s. What did you do? What did you not do, and when?

Special Grammar Cases with Pronominal Verbs

Before I send you out into the French world, armed with all the vocabulary to vanquish your fears of pronominal verbs, we need to get into the nitty-gritty of how to use them in a few situations.

Mixing with compound tenses

What if you want to express pronominal verbs in the past (or use any other compound tense)?

There are 3 simple things to keep in mind:

1. You will use êtrenot avoir

2. This has to agree with the subject (but there are some exceptions)…

3. And your reflexive pronoun will go before the conjugated verb être.

In short, it will look something like this:

Hier soir, elle s’est amusée au bar. (Last night, she had a good time at the bar.)


Let’s turn our questioning to questions.

If you’re using the est-ce que method, then not much changes:

Est-ce que tu t’amuses ? (Are you having a good time?)

But if you’re using the inversion technique, you’ll get something like this:

Te brosses-tu les dents ? (Did you brush your teeth?)

It’s exactly the same concept as regular verbs, except you add the reflexive verb to the beginning.


For the imperative (when you’re making a command), the reflexive pronoun comes after the verb:

Levez-vousWake up!

Habillez-vous ! Get dressed!

You’ll also have to change the first- and second-person singular pronouns, me and te, to the stressed pronouns moi and toi.

Lève-toi ! Get up!

Coiffe-moi ! Do my hair!

Take note: The “s” in the conjugated form disappears from the tu form, a basic rule for the imperative.

In negative commands with pronominal verbs, the reflexive pronoun returns to its rightful place in front of the verb and the subject pronouns tu, nous and vous are dropped.

Ne t’assieds pas ! Don’t sit down!

Ne vous levez pas !  — Don’t get up!

Want practice? Check out this quiz on the imperative mood.

Dual-verb constructions

Let’s say you want to use the near future, which looks like this with regular verbs:

Je vais expliquer. (I’m going to explain.)

Normally, you would just conjugate aller and then add the infinitive of the verb. With pronominal verbs, it’s almost the same, except the reflexive verb has to agree with the subject:

Je vais me coucher. (I’m going to go to bed.)


Don’t be intimidated by pronominal verbs ever again.

They’re your friends.

Furthermore, understanding what those reflexive pronouns are trying to tell you will make your French reading, movie watching and listening adventures smoother, more enriching and, most importantly, fear-free.

Happy conjugating!

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